With the reunification of Germany, Berlin replaced Bonn as the official capital and, in 1999, the German Bundestag (parliament) moved back into the rebuilt Reichstag, which stands in Mitte, a central neighborhood in Berlin.
It’s apt that the person I start chatting to in the elevator up to the Reichstag rooftop was in Berlin the night the Wall fell in 1989. This event kickstarted the reunification process, leading to the restoration of the Reichstag, badly damaged in World War II. It’s my new friend’s first trip here but it’s important to be politically active, he tells me. He used to live in the old GDR and remembers the old regime, when you had to suspect all your neighbors and friends of being Stasi spies.
The Reichstag’s glass dome, designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, is a symbol of a new transparency in German politics. It allows the public see into the debating chamber below and my friend plans to return later in the week to watch a sitting of the Bundestag from the public gallery.
You have to register in advance to visit, but it’s not just for the politically active. The fact this is the only parliament building in the world with a public restaurant – on the rooftop no less, and with great views of Mitte and the rest of Berlin – may have something to do with its popularity. Where else can you find democracy, rooftop views and a glass of wine in one spot?
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